THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
As a Wimbledon supporter I am often frustrated by the lack of a uniquely id­en­­tifiable song, and some people might also feel the lack of a mascot. The fact that we have the best educated supporters in the country and our nickname of “Dons” set me thinking. For a mascot we could have a middle-aged man in a chalky tweed suit, gown and mortar board, carrying a large book, Plato’s Republic, or the Faerie Queene, say. As a special treat for the kiddies, perhaps he could recruit them for MI6 or the KGB over sherry. As for a song, the school song, Gaud­eanus Igitur (Let them rejoice) would suffice. It would be particularly appropriate for its second verse with the lines “Vivat Academia, Vivat Professores”, loosely translated as “Long Live Academica, Come on You Dons”.I hope all Wombles will aid my campaign to make this song as famous as You’ll Never Walk Alone.
Aled Thomas, Cheltenham

Dear WSC
Unfortunately, I’ll probably be forced into a Salman Rushdie-esque existence but here goes. I think Scottish football would improve enormously if they were to return to the old two-division format. How many hints do Rangers, Celtic and the rest need before they twig that the Scottish Premier League is a joke? From next season, the Scot­tish cham­pions will have to join (and probably lose to) the Estonian champs and the Faroes’ finest in the early qualifying rounds for the Champ­ions League. And when will Rangers twig that no matter how many billions they waste on players, they’ll be stuffed by CSKA Sofia because their galaxy of stars have forgotten how to play due to the feeble state of the opposition domestically. Now compare this to the good old days of sensible soccer in Scotland. With­out question, Jock Stein’s Celtic were the best side in Britian, Rangers were a winning force in Europe, Dunfermline (yes, Dunfermline) were an excellent European competion side, Hibernian the same. Don’t be fooled by the initial achievements of Scottish sides after the Premiership formation. That was just the petrol left in the tank from a superior system. Sadly, greed will no doubt prevail and Scottish football will become increasingly pathetic and pointless and still the fools won’t take the hint. I also think Coronation Street would improve if it went back to two shows a week.
Rob Preston, Beesley

Dear WSC
In response to Mike Fenton’s letter (WSC No 145) I can only assume that callers to 6.06 repeatedly ask David Mellor how he is on the off chance that he will one day reply “terminally ill”.
Gavin Pilfold, Thornton Heath

Dear WSC
I’m intrigued by the latest addition to the football language, the word “cute”, as in “Arsène Wenger was very cute by offering Sheffield United a replay”, (Mark Lawrenson, Football Focus). Now I might be old fashioned but I always thought cute to mean sweet and sug­ary. Apparently now it means devious and scheming. The facts: Parlour’s carefully placed throw into no-man’s land, having just waved away Holdsworth and Sandford, leads to dozy Kanu and cheating Overmars’s infamous goal. Amidst the ensuing hullabaloo Wenger does what any quality foreign manager does and gets scheming. Replay at Bramall Lane? No thank you! Play the reserves again? No way, these boys from Sheffield are too good. Replay at Highbury with the first team out? That’ll do nicely! Pick up the moral high ground by offering a replay and wait for the FA and FIFA to prevaricate. Sussed. A replay should have been at Bramall Lane, the unprecedented rematch should have been played with teams no stronger than the original line ups, ie no Anelka, Adams, etc. Another point. FIFA claim there is no need to alter the rule book to legislate for such an incident in future, a point I agree with. There are no examples in the rule book of what constitutes ungentlemanly conduct; this is left to the referee’s interpretation, eg if a centre half “moons” at a speedy winger, the referee has the power to interpret this as ungentlemanly conduct, stop the game and award a free kick. No mention of “mooning” in the rule book. Jones knew the incident was ungentlemanly or else why did he consult the linesman? He got it wrong. Incompetent referees I can accept, but “cute” French managers are a dangerously new phenomenon. Wenger for England? Gets my vote.
Lindsay Shaw, vie email

Dear WSC

Phil Griffiths’s letter about managers being substitutes in WSC 145 is a fine idea. However, it has been done before, and spookily it was our friend, the inn­ovative Mister Strachan, who was the culprit. The season before last, when he was still registered as a player, he named himself as a sub at Anfield and spent the entire match marching up and down the side of the pitch barking instructions. When he was ordered back into the dug-out he said he was warming up and was therefore entitled to leave the coaching area – I’m not sure who won the argument (but I’ve got a pretty good idea) but I do know there was a nasty atmosphere in the crowd as the Liverpool fans weren’t amused. I believe he genuinely named himself as a sub, rather than thinking the whole thing through. On a dull, legalistic note, assuming a manager is an ex-player, he might have claimed his pension from the PFA on retirement. This means, to register himself as a player, he’d have to pay back what he has received, as Mark Higgins and Brian Law did before resuming their careers.
Mark Griffiths, vie email

Dear WSC

Ref Phil Griffiths’s letter (WSC No 145). In his early days at Coventry City, wee Gordon could regularly be seen strutting his stuff up the touchline dishing out instructions to his players (or maybe dishing out dirt to his opp­onents) on the pretence that, as a nam­ed substitute, he was warming up for action. Sorry Phil – we saw it first be­fore you told us!
Peter Tatlow, vie email

Dear WSC
Thank you for publishing in WSC No 137 my appeal for witnesses to a violent incident which took place on Euston station concourse on Saturday February 21st 1998. The happy outcome is that following a court case both my husband and son were acquitted of all assault charges against the police. My husband was hospitalised suff­ering serious head and back injuries during the incident. As a result, I would like warn other fans of the vio­lent action which British Transport Police’s football surveillance unit on Euston station is apparently capable of. The officers’ conduct is now under in­vestigation and a civil action is being prepared.If any other fans saw the incident I would be grateful if they could contact me.
Joan Moore, Altrincham

Dear WSC

Did anyone see the inaugural pay-per-view match between Oxford and Sun­derland? No, neither did I.
Brian Sharpe, Uttoxeter

Dear WSC
Felt compelled to reply to Tom Sim­pson (WSC No 145) and his hair shirt reaction to the possibility of England hosting the 2006 World Cup. The hoo­l­igan element are despicable, dep­lorable and other adjectives beginning with D. Tom was also correct in noting “it’s only a tiny minority”. (The mighty Hull City suddenly sprang a “tiny minority” for the Sky game against Rochdale: it always happens. It always will.) The problem is controllable to a degree but stamping it out completely must be nigh on impossible. Not without rad­ical changes to British law and outlook, anyway. One cannot legislate against occas­ional “fans” who appear only when the possibility of well documented trouble is offered. But is the “tiny minority” a valid reason for the World Cup to not be held here? We had one of the worst records for hooliganism in France 98. I seem to recall the German supporters acting appallingly too, should this disbar them from hosting 2006? Would their – or even the Italian, or Dutch – reputation for crowd trouble prevent a real fan from travelling? Of course not. Would our problems stop other nations visiting here to watch football? No. Most reasonable people, whilst hating the incomprehensible violence of the lunatic fringe, are quite aware that most English people are polite and welcoming. As we know that the mindless elements of other European nations are not representative of the populous as a whole, so these people realise that England is not filled with skinhead types, waiting at “our” end of the tunnel to violently accost them. Will our collective “punishment” of not hosting the tournament make the problem go away? Surely not. Hold the damn thing here, we’ve a chance of qualifying then.
David Schultz, vie email

Dear WSC

What is it with the soaps and Torquay United? The letter from Nick House in WSC No 145 about a mythical player’s transfer to Torquay on Coronation Street reminded me of a similar “in­cident” in Brookside. You may (or more probably may not) recall that the son of the Rogers family (his name escapes me) had his departure from the series explained by his joining Torquay as a YTS. For a few brief but glorious episodes Mr Rogers would occasionally, and for no apparent reason, shout out “TOR­QUAY!” and shake his fist in the way that only football supporters and, evidently, fathers of YTS trainees can. Maybe I should have been offended by this patronising use of the name of a team large enough for most people to have heard of but small enough for the storyline to be believable to anyone living outside South Devon. But, sadly, I’m one of those insufferables that gets excited by any mention of my club in the national media and I seem to recall watching those episodes excitedly waiting for a progress report. Alas, I have to report that Rogers Jr never made the first team. We await the signing of Grant Mitchell with interest.
Simon Atkinson, Ashburton

Dear WSC
Although the comings and goings at Lancaster Gate are now old news, the incompetence of the people running our national game was once again brought home to me recently. If, like me, you joined the England Members Club in the post-match eu­ph­oria of that night in Rome last October, in the vain expectation of get­ting tickets for England’s World Cup matches, the chances are that you were also disappointed (like some 30,000 other mem­bers). I was fortunate in that living in France, I was able to get World Cup tickets that were released onto the French market (though not for any England games). The fun that I had during the World Cup greatly revived my interest in international football, and thus I decided to continue my membership. Closer to home, I was also keen to get tickets for the friendly against France at Wembley on February 10th. With my membership due to expire on December 31st 1998, I waited for a renewal form to arrive. It eventually came on January 29th 1999, with a note explaining that ticket application forms for the friendly against France, and the Euro 2000 qualifier against Poland (March 27th 1999), must be returned no later than December 31st 1998. Whilst rummaging amongst all the crap that accompanied the belated renewal form, I found a letter from a company called Synchro Systems, who apparently have the contract to send out the England Members Club mail. It noted that “a number of renewal packs destined for overseas members were in­advertently dispatched at inland pos­tal rates, which may have led to you not receiving the original pack which was sent at the beginning of December 1998”. Thus, the cause of my woes became apparent: a company that has a contract to send out mail does not realise that it costs different amounts to send things to different parts of the world. I can live with the disappointment of not getting an England v France ticket, but what really got my blood boiling was the membership renewal application form. If I lived in the UK it would cost £20 to join the England Members Club, or £15 to renew my membership. But because I live “overseas” I have to fork out £25 for membership, or £23 for renewal. Why do UK residents save a fiver on renewal and me just two quid? And why am I charged extra anyway? Presumably it’s for postage, though I’m obviously paying for a service that I’m not getting. The incompetence, accompanied by this obvious rip-off, is symptomatic of the way our national game is being run. God help us if we win the bid to stage the World Cup in 2006.
Dave Winter, Paris

Dear WSC
I applaud the fact that a man who im­poses crankily controversial views on the public, puts his faith misguidedly in spiritualists of ambivalent re­pute and leaves his wife under an adult­er­ous shadow, should be pre­vent­ed from holding one of Eng­land’s most influential and high-profile offices. No wonder Her Majesty the Queen refuses to abdicate.
Tony Kinsella, Eccles

Dear WSC

While there are many reasons for foot­ball fans to protest against the int­ro­duction of pay-per-view football, the fact that Radio 5 Live should want to provide live second half commentary and therefore reduce 6.06 to less than an hour is not one of them.
Brigg Ferrier, Leicestershire

Dear WSC
In late January seismologists picked up significant tremors in the north Staff­ordshire area. The cause emerged as the dismissal after 15 years of the League’s second longest serving manager, John Rudge. The fans would rather see the back of chairman Bill Bell, who is blam­ed for tight fistedness, not finding a millionaire to bankroll the club, or lining his pocket (at Port Vale??) instead of buying new players. But, faced with freefall towards the Second Division, something had to be done. I couldn’t have sacked Rudgie – but I can see why he went. What does a club have to do to break out of obscurity? We can’t hang on to players. The golden handshake Neil Aspin received from his recent testimonial may equal a couple of weeks’ Prem­­iership wages. We can’t sign better players because gates of 7,000 don’t create competitive wage structures. We could develop the youth set up but Crewe may have come unstuck this year; and those old enough to remember Burnley as a power in the land will know what can happen when the youth supply dries up. The world has moved on. Would Wim­­­bledon have made it had they come along ten years later, or would they be struggling like Macclesfield? Now you need tens of millions, and Sir Jack Hayward knows that even that might not work. Maybe we should accept that mid-table in the First Division is the best we are ever likely to achieve. It doesn’t mean we can’t emulate Barnsley and have a place in the sun for a year or two, but it might make us a little happier if we accept that as a dream rather than a realistic aspiration. It might mean a bit more job security for managers, too. We in outer darkness can comfort ourselves that our experience is more “authentic”, that we are supporters of football clubs not customers of businesses. But it’s no good complaining that the romance of the game is going. Forget it! It’s gone! Enjoy what’s left, it’s still better than shopping.
Chris Bamber, Stoke on Trent

Dear WSC
I know this is trivial but I need to know: Why does Gianluca Vialli wear that school pullover when interviewed after matches? Is it done for a bet? Or could it be some weird regression impulse, in which case does he put on little shorts as well and grey woollen socks? And a gaberdine mac? And pumps? All right, I’ll stop, thanks for listening.
Helen Jones, Barkingside 

From WSC 146 April 1999. What was happening this month

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